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Best of Breed Success for Bourne again Food Company
October 2003

Bourne Salads is a specialist producer of packed salad and vegetable products for a range of prestigious customers including Tesco, Safeway and Whitbread. With an annual turnover of £60 million and a workforce of up to 500 people, it is the largest site of parent group Geest. In a peak week, Bourne outputs 2 million bags of packed leaf products which equates to processing approximately 78 tonnes of raw product, supplied by up to 70 vehicles each day. With varying orders arriving on a daily basis to deliver the next-day it is clearly a sizeable operation and one which requires state-of-the-art planning and scheduling. This is why Bourne Salads relies completely on Preactor as the heart of its planning and scheduling.

bourne01.jpgJohn Bennett is the planning manager for Bourne Salads, and heads up a team of 8 people working on a 24x7 basis. “On one level, what we do here is very simple. We receive raw materials in at one end of the plant. This is then washed, prepared and inspected before being packed and dispatched at the other end.”

However, it doesn’t take long for the scale of the planning constraints to become clear, as Bennett continues. “There are obvious constraints of short shelf life, both in terms of raw material stock levels and the finished product. Orders arrive and are amended on a daily basis and need to be actioned the next day and we typically process 1000 jobs per day on a 24x7 basis. We therefore need to coordinate with our 30 raw materials suppliers at very short notice. Needless to say, the degrees of variance in order size can be significant with peak demand being 100% greater than non-peak.” Bourne also encounters the usual planning constraints and route plan issues. “It is this level of complexity which necessitates us to reschedule up to 50 times a day if necessary”, explains Bennett.

It also explains why the Preactor solution plays such an important role in Bourne’s overall production methodology and has done since the new Bourne Salad plant came on-stream in 1998. Bourne is a solid example of how varying best-of-breed solutions can work together with a central MRP system to deliver the required level of results. Here a Protean MRP system interacts with Preactor together with other ‘best of breed’ applications for example forecasting and shop floor data capture.  A weekly MPS is imported from forecasting MRP to generate long-term raw material and packaging requirements. Materials and part files are imported into a Recipe Generation (RGP) Tool and also Preactor for daily scheduling and capacity planning. Daily information is also used to generate packaging requirements.  Works orders are then extracted from RGP into Preactor along with the latest Bills of Materials (BOM’s) and parts that may contain alternative BOM’s. Preactor then dispatches the works orders to each point of use via the SFDC which then feeds back works order updates as they occur.

bourne02.jpgPrior to the opening of the current plant in 1998, planning and scheduling had a much more manual flavour to it as Bennett recalls. “We were operating in a smaller physical environment and didn’t require a planning department. We drew our planning charts on a sheet of paper using standard product recipe calculations to determine the amount of raw materials, boxes, trays etc required to fulfil each order.

These were laid out on a manual Gantt chart then issued out to production. Everyone was involved in the process.” The move to the much larger current site necessitated a move to an automated planning and scheduling process as Bennett explains, and not just because of the increased scale and complexity of orders.    “Technical constraints resulted in far more segregation between high and low care sections of the factory, which meant it was now impossible to physically communicate across the length of plant. And with an increased number of people involved, the collaborative process became unworkable.”

Bourne recognised that in order to successfully execute its business strategy of delivering only the highest levels of customer satisfaction, planning had to be central, and central all of the time. “Basically the buck now stops with us”, comments Bennett. “This is why we built a team to operate on a round-the-clock basis because it is imperative that there is a planner manager able to take responsibility for any rescheduling changes that are required, when they are required. If for example we took a delivery of raw materials at 2:00am and on inspection they were rejected on Quality Control grounds, having to wait until 9:00am for any rescheduling would have a detrimental effect on our ability to meet our customer’s needs.” “It’s not an option to be entertained lightly”, continues Bennett, “because it requires substantial top-down support, all the way from senior management. It is labour intensive and therefore has a cost attached which must be shown to be delivering appropriate benefits. This of course places significant pressures of consistency upon the planning team.”

bourne03.jpgAnd Preactor has been consistently delivering benefits for the planning team, so much so that it is now thought of as “the hub” of the entire planning process. “We have levels of planning visibility that were simply unachievable before, and are now central to our ability to meet customer demands.

Moreover, the ease with which we can reschedule and model “what-if” scenarios enables us not only to react to situations fast, but also in the most effective manner. Preactor provides the plan but it is our workforce which makes the plan happen. And the ability to distribute this to the point of use on the shopfloor enables them to be continually working on the most accurate real-time plan available.”

Preactor has also delivered a number of other benefits, not least the ability to plan in routine maintenance and hygiene requirements. It is also used for investigating different strategies concerning workflow during peak weeks where potential bottlenecks become critical and any areas of plant under-utilisation can make the difference between being able to accept an order or not. As such it is seen as a key management tool. Just how vital is Preactor to Bourne Salads? John Bennett has the last word, “If the SFDC was switched off, we could last a couple of days. If Preactor was switched off, there simply would be no alternative – we couldn’t operate.”

Mike Novels, Managing Director of Preactor International comments.  “This shows how Best of Breed products are providing companies like Bourne the solution they want and at a price that is attractive.”